Black Forest fire caused $85 million in damage to homes, assessor says

Black Forest fire caused $85 million in damage to homes, assessor says

10 July 2013

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USA — Last month’s Black Forest fire caused more than $85 million in damage, a number that is sure to rise as El Paso County assessors tally the devastation to outbuildings, commercial structures and trees.

The blaze that started June 11 destroyed 486 homes — fewer than the sheriff’s department’s initial estimate of 511 — and damaged 37, county assessor Mark Lowderman said Tuesday.

The fire — which killed two people and charred more than 14,000 acres, also caused $85,444,052 in damage to homes, Lowderman said in announcing the completion of the first of four parts of the Black Forest assessment. Sixteen members of his office, who have been working full-time on the fire, must now put dollar amounts to lost outbuildings, commercial structures and, perhaps most costly, trees. A treeless lot sells for about 30 percent less than one with pristine trees, and buyers will pay about 15 percent less for a lot with damaged trees, Lowderman said.

“We will probably have to review Black Forest in a year or two because we have no guarantee that those trees that were damaged are going to make it,” he said.

The assessor’s office came up with its totals after on-site inspections of 2,400 parcels.

“It could have been a lot worse,” Lowderman said.

His office has not yet begun to estimate the “stigma,” or the impact on the values of homes that were untouched by the blaze. Those numbers could take years to pinpoint.

“Only time will tell,” Lowderman said.

Authorities continue to investigate the cause of the fire, which killed a married couple, Marc Allen Herklotz, 52, and his wife, Robin Lauran Herklotz, 50. The sheriff’s office, which said the fire’s cause was not natural, has executed search warrants and conducted interviews.

Lt. Jeff Kramer said Tuesday that investigators are awaiting the results of some lab tests before they can move forward.

“They’re making progress,” he said.

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